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Adivasis & Telangana

Adivasis & Telangana
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This is in continuation of Palla Trinadha Rao’s article ‘Adivasis and T Identity’ written in response to Rama Melkote’s...

JM Girglani in his report on ‘Tribal Land Issues in Telangana Area’ submitted to the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2005 has categorically shown that tribals in Telangana have been losing land to non-tribals for a long time

This is in continuation of Palla Trinadha Rao’s article ‘Adivasis and T Identity’ written in response to Rama Melkote’s article on August 22. He raised the question that how can Telangana represent the identity of Adivasis or their region in the wake of its carving into separate state.

As he said it is true that non-tribals have entrenched into tribal areas in the Vth Schedule area in Telangana. And rightly, Trinadha Rao asks who these non-tribals are? There is ample evidence that a majority of these non-tribals are from coastal Andhra. Scholars working on tribal issues have raised these issues time and again.

JM Girglani in his report on ‘Tribal Land Issues in Telangana Area’ submitted to the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2005 has categorically shown that tribals in Telangana have been losing land to non-tribals for a long time. The Gonds of Adilabad in the 1930s lost land to Marathis and during 1940s to Hindu and Muslim settlers invited by the Nizam from neighbouring districts.

In the post-independent India, notwithstanding protective legislations of tribal rights passed in 1949, 1959 and the (in) famous Regulation of 1 of 1970, scheduled areas in Telangana saw an influx of non-tribal population such as the Marathas, Mahars and Lambadas which in due course of time have passed on into the hands of Telugu non-tribals mostly from four central coastal Andhra districts of Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari.

The onslaught of non-tribals from coastal districts over scheduled areas in Telangana continued unabated. According to estimates as much as 1.5 lakh acres along the Godavari riverine banks of Warangal and Khammam have passed into the hands of Kamma, Raju, and Kapu landlords and cultivators belonging to the coastal areas.

Be it Eturnagaram, Govindraopet, Mangapet in Warangal district or Venkatapuram, Chintoor, Kunavaram, VR Puram in Khammam fertile lands by the side of Godavari river, they have been under their control. They successfully have occupied Koya villages and lands after the latter had fled due to ineffective implementation of the Land Transfer Regulation Acts (LTR).

In a number of villages that had been part of Schedule V area (inclusion in Schedule V itself proves that most land was under tribal occupation) most of the lands have gone into the hands of non-tribals claiming ownership prior to 1959 or 1970 LTR Acts through fraudulent means.

Also there are villages in Eturnagaram and Mangapet mandals in Warangal district which have been excluded from Schedule V and all attempts to rectification has lost ground due to powerful non-tribal occupants. Khammam district has been witness to most atrocious non-tribal penetration from coastal areas.

Bhadrachalam municipal town and the peripheral urbanized areas are completely under non-tribal occupation with commercial buildings constructed for various purposes violating 1 of 1970 regulation. In VR Puram mandal, 8,200 non-tribals from Nellore, Kanigiri, Nandyal are in possession of tribal lands taken on lease in violation of LTR.

Thus we find scores of examples where tribals have lost land due to a number of reasons like de-scheduling of tribal villages, benami titles, fake ST certificates, obtaining stay orders and dragging cases by appealing to High Court, declaring tribals from whom land is purchased as non-tribals and importantly in the name of tribal women as concubines. Support from political class especially during the tenure of NT Rama Rao has emboldened the non-tribals to occupy tribal lands.

The control of non-tribals over resources belonging to tribals (land, forest) is symbolic of control of Seemandhra over Telangana resources. Telangana is now struggling hard to come out of the Seemandhra capitalist clutches.

The demand for a separate state for the tribals encompassing the contiguous tribal areas in the State, though has been in vogue since 1986, has been raised purposely time and again co-terminus with Telangana movement.

Because of the extensive non-tribal presence in Bhadrachalam demands are forthcoming to bring it out of the purview of Vth Schedule area. Further, the UPA decision on bifurcation of the State is conditional by declaring Polavaram project to be given national status. This is undemocratic and amounts to sacrificing tribal (koya) interests while displacing four lakh people and causing ecological destruction to the Eastern Ghats. It is time that the Adivasis in Telangana voice their opinion strongly in unison.

(The writer is Professor, Centre for Economic and Social studies, Hyderabad)

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